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Pelosi Introduces Bush to the Power of Congress


Well, well, well, the Washington Post editorial page is channeling
the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Gigot again. Tsk, tsk, nothing like
a reinvigorated Congress to reveal that our biggest newspapers have forgotten
the Constitution. They’re taking out after Speaker
Pelosi
for her
trip to Syria
while parroting wingnut talking points in the process.


The really striking development here is the attempt by a Democratic congressional
leader to substitute her own foreign policy for that of a sitting Republican
president. Two weeks ago Ms. Pelosi rammed legislation through the House of
Representatives that would strip Mr. Bush of his authority as commander in
chief to manage troop movements in Iraq.

Pratfall
in Damascus

This view kicked off on NPR yesterday. My husband came home from work talking
about an interview he’d heard on NPR that said Pelosi’s trip had turned into an embarrassment.
He was really disappointed and surprised at that news, but he couldn’t remember the interview specifics. Here’s
one interview
I found, which gives you an idea of the press coming out on Pelosi’s trip, even on NPR.

Never mind that Republicans were also in Syria, with one congressman being very blunt about
Bush.


“President Bush, is the head of state, but he hasn’t encouraged
dialogue. That’s an important message to realize: we have tensions,
but we have two functioning embassies.” – Rep.
Darryl Issa

But this
GOP comment
gets to the nut of it.


“Dialogue is not a sign of weakness,” Pitts said after returning
home Wednesday. “It’s a sign of strength.” – Rep.
Joe Pitts

If you listened to Rush’s show today the reality of this debate was brought
home to the embarrassment of Republicans as well as the 109th Congress and many
of those before it. El Rushbo and his Dumbohead fans, which I’d say also includes Sean
Hannity who is even dumber on constitutional powers and the legal prerogatives of Congress,
simply do not understand that the Congress is a co-equal branch to the executive.
But why should they? Look the way their own Republicans behaved in the 109th
Congress, rubber stamping anything Bush wanted, including spending that makes
Paris Hilton look frugal. Then there is their encroachment on civil rights and American liberties, which Glenn Greenwald has chronicled continually, which is based on fear because Republicans are scared of everyone. They also have
no respect for the Founders, but most particularly what Benjamin Franklin said:
“They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security,
deserve neither liberty or security.”
Politics and ideology always trumps
the U.S. Constitution for Republicans.

The erosion of Congress has been happening for a very long time, decades even.
It starts one place: war powers. Yes, the president is the commander in chief,
but he most certainly doesn’t get to decide the action of war. That permission
lies in the U.S. Congress. But all you have to do is listen to the Republicans
on cable tv to get a glimpse of how we got into this mess. On “Hardball,”
Matthews has exposed the Republicans’ basic notion that if the president is
one of them they won’t tread on him. It’s as dangerous a position for this country
and our democracy as it gets. It turns this country into something less than
what the Founders intended. But it’s been happening for decades; it’s just that
the tipping point was reached during Mr. Bush’s first term and during the reign
of the 109th Congress.

From the Korean conflict to the Vietnam whatever you want to call
it
onwards, to all the other extracurricular military ops behind Congress’s
back we’ve been pursuing over the years that helped lead to Iran-Contra; what
has happened gradually is that the Congress has become an echo of executive
power instead of a check, especially when the party in power in the White House
is the same that runs the House and/or Senate. As recently as 2002, when it
happened that the opposite party was in power, the Democrats abdicated their
responsibility on the Iraq war resolution because many Dems were afraid they’d
appear soft after 9/11. It might have been a good reason at the time, but it
takes courage and conviction to stand your ground when the earth is quaking
around you. Most failed the Franklin test, which is why Speaker Pelosi, by doing
her job, is taking incoming.

Well, my friends, wake up and witness the power of Congress. Speaker Pelosi is bringing it back and Mr. Bush and the Republicans don’t like it. She’s doing what few have done in decades past. Stand up and take the power of Congress back. The Founders are applauding.

However, wingnut radio and the GOP blogs don’t understand it, which shows you the authoritarian nature of
the Republican Party in the age of Bush. Nothing has threatened our democracy
more.

The editors of the Post and the WSJ need to read the Christian
Science Monitor
today (h/t). Maybe someone can email it to the wingnuts.


On Capitol Hill, both the Senate and House are wreaking havoc on the Bush
policy in Iraq. Bush came to the White House with an exaggerated notion of
the powers of the president based on the constitutional provision making him
commander in chief. September 11 gave him the opportunity to expand this notion.
The Republicans in Congress were cheerleaders for him; Democrats were paralyzed
by political cowardice.

But he is commander in chief only of the armed forces, not of the country.
The Constitution gives Congress a number of powers to complement the president’s
role as commander in chief. They include the power “[t]o raise and support
Armies … [t]o provide and maintain a Navy … [t]o make rules for the Government
and Regulation of the land and naval Forces … [t]o provide for organizing,
arming, and disciplining, the Militia….”

These powers, plus the congressional power to declare war, considerably modify
the role of the commander in chief. Much of American history is concerned
with struggles between the president and Congress over where to draw the line
between themselves. There has been a back-and-forth swing of the pendulum
between the two branches, sometimes accompanied by bitter disputes, as in
the cases of Vietnam and now Iraq. The most important congressional power
is the control of money. The power of the purse was what ultimately ended
US involvement in Vietnam.

Unless Bush makes a sharp change in direction not only in Iraq but especially
in how he looks at the balance of power between the executive and legislative
branches, his principal legacy could well be a dysfunctional government.

Members of Congress in both parties need to take another look at their own
role vis-à-vis the president and how their failure to assert themselves
post-9/11 contributed to the country’s present troubles.

The role of
Congress in checking the power of the president

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